Warren Hayden: Horses in striped pyjamas at the zoo

I'm often asked by friends and family to recommend a great place for them to visit with their children.

Tuesday, 17th May 2016, 6:00 am
A zebra foal at Marwell

Being a dad of two daughters aged five and six I have a long list of answers to that question that instantly roll off the tongue.

Before I share that information though, I respond to their question by firing a few questions straight back at them.

I ask them if they want to take the car, how much money they want to spend and if they want to have as much fun as the kids!

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It’s important to get my answer right because the last thing I want to do is make a recommendation only for them to have a terrible time and point the finger at me. Of course, I can only go by the experience my children and I have had.

Recently, on a school inset day, we jumped in the car and went to Marwell Zoo. It’s a place I loved to visit as a child and I was looking forward to returning again with my own children.

It’s a huge place which means even when it is busy it doesn’t feel crowded. Both my girls were excited about what they were going to see and, being honest, so was their mum Serena – and me!

The penguins are always a highlight and they seemed to have fun jumping in and out of the water, unaware they had an audience. My daughters were impressed at how close we were to them – within an arm’s distance – and they loved the ‘underground cave’ where you could witness the penguins gliding through the water.

We then made our way to a wooden walkway called Savannah Tracks, which led to a viewing platform. This is where we saw a beautiful cheetah basking in the sunshine. This time it was me that was amazed at how close we got to this creature that could have me for its tea.

One of the highlights for my daughter Caitlin was when she spotted ‘Pumba’ from the Disney movie The Lion King, also known as a grunting, snorting warthog.

I really liked the idea from Marwell Zoo to give young visitors an Explorer trail booklet which had spaces for stamps that could be found around the zoo. My daughters really enjoyed searching for them as we made our way through the park.

There were so many animals to see and learn about that I couldn’t list them all here, but a highlight for me were the meerkats and the excellent, informative talk from their keeper.

It was a great family day out and a destination that I’d highly recommend. We also had a bit of a laugh when I pointed out the zebras to six-year-old Caitlin.

She was quick to inform me that they weren’t zebras.

They were, in fact, horses with their pyjamas on.

Oh for the days of teleporting

There are some things that happen as a child that stop happening when we grow up and become an adult.

For example, getting picked up when we are tired of walking. When our legs ache while doing the big weekly shop, wouldn’t it be great if someone could pick us up and give our legs a rest until we got back to the car?

Then there is questioning everyone and everything.

When we were young we could say what was on our minds and blurt out our opinions, but as we get older we watch what we say in fear of prying or being nosey.

The thing I really miss that happened when I was a child but doesn’t happen now is... teleporting. Yes, I’m not joking. When I was a child, I’d get comfy on the sofa, fall asleep and magically wake up in my bed under my duvet.

Now, as a grown up, if I fall asleep on the sofa, I wake up still on the sofa and have to get myself to bed.

Maybe at 6ft 1in I’m just too tall and heavy to teleport any longer.